It was, from some who have kept close tabs on the process, an exhaustive search to find a new varsity basketball coach at Saint Louis.
The Crusaders hired longtime coach Sol Batoon on Wednesday. Batoon is a 1966 graduate of Farrington High School. His coaching resume has stretched across the state: Assistant coach and assistant athletic director at Chaminade; Kaiser, St. Joseph, Campbell, Thompson Academy, St. Francis. He was athletic director and boys basketball coach at St. Francis, starting a program from scratch and getting the gym constructed.
He chatted with Hawaii Prep World on Thursday morning.
HPW: Congratulations on being hired by Saint Louis.
Batoon: Thank you.
HPW: It’s the toughest league to compete in for boys basketball. It seems like every Division I program in the ILH continues to bring in talent and has built tradition at a very high level.
Batoon: Saint Louis has a great history in basketball. They won six state titles. You can’t dismiss those.
HPW: True, but since Jim Nicholson’s era, it’s been almost 40 years since the Crusaders dominated at the state level in basketball — with the exception of a few teams like the ’99 squad led by Junior Wong. It’s been tough in this league. Can the school build a championship basketball program the way other ILH schools seem to have the resources for?
Batoon: Saint Louis does a good job of giving kids opportunities. Everything is based on need and what we need to concentrate on is building the culture in regards to basketball. Winning resolves a lot of the issues. I’m not saying we’re going to win right away, but we’ll compete. There are great coaches all around the ILH. I can’t be concerned about what the other schools are doing. I can only be concerned with what we can improve on.
HPW: What has changed since the first time you coached at the high school level?
Batoon: When I was at Kaiser, I was a strong disciplinarian. I had to learn to water that down some. It’s a different generation now. It starts with the kids’ attitudes and if they understand what their roles are, for them to have a way to communicate with us so they can express what they’re feeling, you can understand the way they are, then you can teach them and help them understand the value of team success, and appreciate what they do. When they can understand that, then your expectations can grow and your team can get better.
HPW: You never seem to get tired. You’re at football and basketball games all the time. Are you going to be able to balance your role as a grandfather with coaching?
Batoon: I’m lucky in a way that almost all my sons and daughters are on the mainland. Our oldest is coaching (football) with Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic. My other two two are at Liberty (High School) and one is at Saint Louis. We have 19 grandchildren. We’re good Catholics.
HPW: When Alan Silva left, he left a pretty talented roster. What do you know about them?
Batoon: I’m trying to have an open mind so when we have tryouts after the state football championship, we can be objective about who we can have on the team. I know there’s great athletes.
HPW: When Saint Louis beat Maryknoll in the ILH playoffs last season, they switched to a 1-2-2 zone and Maryknoll went cold from the perimeter.
Batoon: We’ll play inside-out, the way we played at St. Francis. It takes awhile to build a program. The proper thing to do is build it from the bottom out. It’s kind of a late notice, one month out, so I’m scrambling. We’ll play in less tournaments (than five). We have to have a sense of identity of what we do and how we do. I’m not worried about them competing. They come from the football program and know how.